By: Bangkok Unit Team
The Global Field Exercise (GFE) we had in Bangkok was fruitful while fun at the same time. It was a two-week field exercise course for the graduate students of the University of Tokyo, Asian Institute of Technology, Chulalongkorn University, Thammasat University, and Mahidol University under the Interdisciplinary Consortium on Urban Environment and Health in Asia program (UEHAS) and Global Field Exercise (GFE) of Graduate Program in Sustainability Science Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI).
During the urban transition phase from developing countries to developed countries under democratic and rapid economic growth, cities are rapidly changing in terms of living standards, social behaviour and health. During this phase, the environment and human societies were made more susceptible to microbial and chemical hazards, as well as natural disasters. Hence, the management of the environment with a holistic view is needed for sustainable urban development. The objective of this two-week GFE is to let the participants learn about i) various environmental risks associated with urbanization and ii) environmental management in Bangkok through lectures and field visits.
Since we, the participants, were from different academic backgrounds, the lectures served as effective introduction to the whole field exercise since it ensured that we all had the same basic knowledge on the effects of urban environment to human health. The lectures also served as avenues for the student participants to ask pressing questions to government officials.
The field visits exposed us to different facilities involved in minimizing different forms of pollution. One was in an air emissions testing center where the laboratory rooms and a demonstration of how the testing is done on vehicles were shown. Another was in Dindaeng’s Wastewater Treatment Plant where the different stages of transforming water into a potable one were thoroughly explained to us. Last was in Nonthaburi’s Landfill Site where we got to see the vast area of land dumped openly with unsegregated trash in what was supposed to be a sanitary landfill.
After being equipped with theoretical and hands-on knowledge, we were given three days to conduct a small-scale research related to urban health. We were divided into four groups, which tackled various issues. This year, the final researches done were 1) Knowledge, Perception on Air Pollution and the Preventive Behaviors among Mobile Vehicles Drivers in Bangkok, Thailand, 2) Assessing Knowledge on Urban Heat Island Phenomenon in Human Health in Bangkok, 3) Integrated Solid Waste Management of Nonthaburi Province, Thailand, 4) Assessment of Air pollution Caused by Boats in Saen Saep Canal. All of the groups performed questionnaire surveys as part of the methodology. This gave us the opportunity to interact with the locals and understand their plight better. We were then asked to present the results of our studies and our corresponding recommendations on the last day of the program.
All in all, the program was well organized. It made us interact and learn from the lecturers, key persons and from our co-participants as well. We also got to see how some environmental issues are being addressed with only band-aid solutions particularly in developing countries due to lack of technical know-how, capability and funding. Comprehensive systemic solutions are what they need so it would be best if more collaborations between different stakeholders and sectors would be promoted further. These countries could learn a lot from developed ones especially Japan since the country was plagued with environmental problems in the late 20th century due to rapid industrialization but has dramatically recovered since then.